Melilotus officinalis is biennial plant is 4–6 feet (1.2–1.8 m) high at maturity. The plant has a bitter taste.
It blooms in spring and summer. Flowers are yellow. Its characteristic sweet odor, intensified by drying, is derived from coumarin.
This plant is very common as it can adapt itself to various soils (but especially likes alkaline soils) and climates. It is resistant to drought and has abundant seed production. In some habitats it is an invasive species. Common places where it can be found include prairies, abandoned fields, roadsides, and railroad ballasts. It does not tolerate dense shade.
Sweet clover contains coumarin that converts to dicoumarol (a powerful anticoagulant toxin) when the plant becomes moldy. This can lead to bleeding diseases (internal hemorrhaging) and death in cattle. Consequently, hay containing the plant must be properly dried and cured, especially in wet environments.
Flowers and seeds can be used as flavoring.
- Nicole Kresge, Robert D. Simoni, and Robert L. Hill. "Hemorrhagic Sweet Clover Disease, Dicumarol, and Warfarin: the Work of Karl Paul Link". Retrieved 2009-08-11.
- Sandia National Labs: SSFL Report; pg.10 . accessed 6.12.2012
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